Professional wrestling has always been about the constant struggle between good guys and bad guys. Just like in the comic books or action-packed superhero television shows, there’s the villainous heel attempting to pull one over on the fan favorite do-gooder. The funny thing is that art doesn’t always imitate real life. The people for whom you might be rooting, and those you might boo in the ring might not be the same person they are outside of the ring.
Fans are often excited about the opportunity to get a picture taken with some of their favorite wrestlers – both faces and heels. The stories that are often shared in the internet wrestling community can vary in surprising ways. Some fans often say that someone who has portrayed a babyface can be rude in person and act indifferently towards faithful fans. Then there are heels who actually show they aren’t quite the exact person we see on television. In fact, some even take the time to answer questions and chat about various topics – if time permits them to do so. There are also wrestlers who were once considered jerks and then turn things around as they got older and wiser.
Through the decades of professional wrestling, fans have discovered that the person seen in the ring and on television isn’t quite the person they could meet outside of an event. The following are the top 10 wrestlers who are jerks in real life and the top 10 who are genuinely nice to their fans, and human beings in general.
20 Jerk – New Jack
Calling New Jack a “jerk” might seem like an understatement for the type of person he truly is. In fact, he’s probably been called worse things by promoters and wrestlers for various independent promotions around the world. The former ECW wrestler once decided to beat up on a much older opponent, Gypsy Joe, during a 2003 match for “not selling the moves.” One year later, he attacked a wrestler in the middle of a match with a weapon he had hidden on him.
19 Sweetheart – Titus O’Neil
Titus O’Neil might be worth the “millions of dollars” that he once pursused as part of The Prime Time Players. He’s certainly using his fame in a positive way to be a good role model for his two sons. His passion for being a positive influence on his children has been very well documented through a fatherhood campaign he did with the WWE, but he’s also done great things outside of his family and the WWE.
18 Jerk – John “Bradshaw” Layfield
Maybe this one doesn’t come off as too much of a surprise. John “Bradshaw” Layfield was after all, a pretty successful heel during the Ruthless Aggression era. There’s a reason he had a long run as the WWE Champion on SmackDown. But there have been a number of stories about how people view JBL outside of his wrestling character. In fact, he’s built up a reputation for being a bully behind the scenes.
17 Sweetheart – Mark Henry
The world of wrestling is filled with plenty of athletes who are larger than life. Mark Henry is one of those men who could intimidate fans just by walking to the ring. The former strongman was certainly someone who looked like he was someone you didn’t want to anger. However, many wrestling fans have commented online about how the World’s Strongest Man is almost like the world’s strongest teddy bear.
16 Jerk – Batista
There are some positive and negative stories about Batista meeting fans outside of WWE events. He was often yelling at fans when he was a heel during his most recent run in the WWE, but fans have other reasons to consider him a jerk. WWE had released a book entitled Batista Unleashed in 2007 and it was from the point of view of the Animal. In it, he called out specific people in the wrestling business he didn’t like (i.e. Bubba Ray Dudley).
15 Sweetheart – Bray Wyatt
14 Jerk – Bubba Ray Dudley
Bubba Ray Dudley has a very lengthy and successful career in the world of wrestling that saw him compete in every major promotion in the world. Whether he was a singles star and won championship gold in TNA or was in a tag team with D-Von for multiple championships, Bubba Ray established himself everywhere he went. However, for a good portion of his career, he was considered a reckless bully.
13 Sweetheart – Dean Ambrose
Wrestling fans might have a hard time associating the word “sweetheart” with Dean Ambrose. For several years before coming to the WWE, he was an aggressive wrestler known as Jon Moxley who left his mark throughout the United States. He’s toned down his style overall for the PG-friendly audience, but he’s still comes across as the Lunatic Fringe.
12 Jerk – Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash has developed quite the reputation among wrestling fans. He’s often been viewed as someone who abused his powers while wrestling for WCW. But even in retirement, Nash has come across as a jerk who likes to get people riled up. In 2014, Nash made a statement that claimed The Rock was not only a jerk, but Nash hinted that the People’s Champion was homosexual.
11 Sweetheart – Daniel Bryan
There’s something to be said about a wrestler being able to portray an honest character in the ring. Daniel Bryan always seemed to be a genuine WWE superstar that didn’t try to be something he wasn’t. That’s one thing that Triple H even said was part of why Bryan was such a popular WWE superstar leading up to WrestleMania XXX. He’s also been sincere about how blessed he felt he was in his career.
10 Jerk – Randy Orton
Randy Orton might be married with children, which shows that he has matured after years, but when he was younger, Orton definitely had some problems with attitude. Part of that can be accredited to being raised as a third-generation wrestler who had the looks coming into the WWE. His family connections led to him getting an opportunity with the WWE. But his attitude got him in trouble with officials, especially how he acted around female talents.
9 Sweetheart – Rob Van Dam
Many wrestlers seem to be laid back and approachable. Rob Van Dam is one of those superstars who seems to enjoy taking the time to talk with the fans. It probably isn’t too much of a surprise considering that RVD seems to have that demeanor of someone who is truly enjoying his life. Fans have found that he is very approachable not only at wrestling venues, but also at airports or other local places.
8 Jerk – Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar was one of the biggest stars of professional wrestling after debuting on the scene in 2002. He was a former collegiate heavyweight champion who was booked strong through his first few years with the company. He was easily a genetic freak that was able to transition successfully into the world of mixed martial arts. He upset UFC fans with his antics and laughing at his opponent’s face after a fight.
7 Sweetheart – Rey Mysterio
This one can’t be too much of a surprise. Rey Mysterio has often been found interacting with younger fans who sit at ringside of wrestling events. WWE television often showed him exchanging words with children, especially those who also wore a Mysterio mask. He admits it wasn’t the original plan to do it every show, but he did it once and the WWE officials asked him to keep doing it.
6 Jerk – Triple H
Sometimes, playing the game of professional wrestling means doing whatever is possible to get a favorable push. In many ways, Triple H is considered someone who set himself up to receive benefits from marrying the boss’s daughter. This has led to Triple H becoming one of the most decorated superstars in WWE history, but that didn’t mean he had to upset a number of coworkers in the process.
5 Sweetheart – Sting
If anyone can attest to the type of person Sting has been in the wrestling industry, it would be the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. During an episode of his WOOOOO Nation podcast, Flair spoke about how Sting is one of the nicest people in professional wrestling. In fact, Flair said that he and Ricky Steamboat are two people who are way too nice to even be in the wrestling business. Wrestling fans would agree with Flair.
4 Jerk – CM Punk
While there are some fans who have had a positive experience meeting CM Punk – as long as they are polite – there are several stories where people have called him a jerk. Part of it seems to be that he tells fans to leave him alone at airports, but Punk has also developed a reputation as a jerk among his coworkers in the WWE.
3 Sweetheart – Shawn Michaels
When Shawn Michaels rose to fame before his untimely retirement in the Attitude Era, he was considered a jerk by his colleagues. Michaels admits it in his book Wrestling for My Life that he wasn’t always a good person towards his coworkers and to his fans. He credits part of that to his substance abuse and his anger towards injuries forcing him out of wrestling. Fortunately, he would find faith and become a born-again Christian, which turned it all around.
2 Jerk – Hulk Hogan
During the 1980s and a good portion of the 1990s, Hulk Hogan was the biggest icon in professional wrestling. Whether he was slamming Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III or forming the New World Order in WCW, Hogan was a beloved figure in wrestling. But even as one of the most requested celebrities in Make-A-Wish history, he wasn’t exactly a perfect role model.
1 Sweetheart – John Cena
John Cena might not be a perfect person outside of the wrestling ring, but he has been a positive role model WWE has pushed for their PG-friendly audience. Cena’s character in the ring has allowed him to be one of the most requested people for visits with the Make-A-Wish foundation. Part of that is how he interacts with people outside of the ring. He’s even had fun with the infamous “Unexpected John Cena” prank for a commercial shoot.
But in addition to meeting with sick fans, he’s brought fans into the ring during WWE events to salute them for their fight against conditions like cancer. Maybe he has had his moments involving his past romantic relationships, but no one has ever forced Cena to grant hundreds of Make-A-Wish requests, more than anyone else in the foundation’s history.
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